Sunday, May 2, 2010

Soccer and the Sounds of Silence

The Charlotte Observer has a short article titled "Soccer Tries Silent Treatment" that tells of soccer parents being asked not to yell and scream at their kids during a soccer game.

The idea is "to lessen the pressure on youth players, Silent Saturday is one day they can play without being shouted at by often overbearing parents and coaches. Clapping and signs are allowed, but basically the children are free to play soccer and have fun."

Years of coaching youth soccer has taught me one major lesson, once your kids hit the field no amount of insane screaming, or sideline antics will change the outcome of the game.

I pace, send in big plays and I've even dropped to my knees in disbelief at an almost in the goal shot, but I stopped yelling years ago.

Guess what? The kids love it, and the parents hate it.

I even had a parent once accuse me of lacking enthusiasm because I wasn't screaming my head off.

I've got news for parents, your kids stopped listening to you the minute they openned the car door and said "hey coach".

Many seasons ago watched an opposing coach berate his players and throw a clipboard at a ref and I pledged from then on to promote a calmer sidelines.

A calmer sidelines doesn't mean I don't care I do, I'm just not Bobby Knight and I don't understand why some many parents think Bobby Knight would make a better soccer coach.

The advantage of being soft spoken.

During a game one of my girls complained that a player from the other team was pushing her and even pulled her hair. I told her on the side lines to "harden up" and play on. I watched in disbelife as the other coach cheered his player every time she tried to trip my player.

At the next thrown in I quietly told my player who was nearly in tears that if the other team's player tripped her again or pulled her hair she was to lay her out.

Not more than three minutes later the overly aggressive player was face down in the grass being tended to by the screaming coach who was also her father. My player was "carded" and I yelled at her to "never ever do that again" and back to my normal coach voice I added "by the way excellent hit".

Being a quiet coach has its pluses.

I have a dozen hand signals; push, smack down, cross, shift and my kids’ favorite poke them in the eye! Poke them in the eye is basically a call for up the middle take the shot, it is my "all in". The effect of silently telling your team to change the pace of the game always produced results. Not a goal every time but the sudden change always caught the opposing team off guard.

The signals are often relayed by one designated player whose job it is to watch the coach. But honestly if I've done my job they don't need me when they take the field. My kids are good, better than most in fact because I really work at letting them play the game.

Kids still need encouragement, and validation.

So the double fist pump. They know if the coach is doing the fist pump they are playing well. If the coach is doing a double fist pump they "ROCK".

Dean Smith

I confess I stole an idea from Dean Smith. Every shot on goal has an assist, since soccer is often a game of few shots and fewer goals, my kids "point" to give credit for the assist even if there is not a goal. I doubt I started a soccer trend but last fall I watched as Charlotte Latin scored against Country Day, and there is was the Dean Smith inspired big point giving credit for the assist.

Yelling is Good for Parents

Parents need to yell it makes them feel part of the game. But the kids don't hear you when you yell, your screams are lost in the sounds of the game, but as coach my soft spoken words carry weight and my simple hand signals are heard all the way across the field.

BTW the parents hate the coded signs, especially the poke them in the eye, yes it looks like you might expect, but these are 12 year olds so get you mind out of the gutter.

More on soccer coaching here.

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